February: Black History Month

Spence-Chapin has been a leader in African-American and Black infant adoption and recruiting African-American adoptive parents. In honor of Black History Month, we revisit the efforts made by those who have fought to break barriers, making African-American and Black children from all parts of the world a focus and a priority.

Adoption at Spence-Chapin

In the 1940’s, Gladys Randolph, former director of Social Work at Harlem Hospital, brought the issue of boarder babies languishing in her community without families to the attention of Spence-Chapin. Challenging the then-popular notion that African-American families were not interested in adoption, Spence-Chapin started a program in 1946 to respond to the crisis. Working hard to tackle this misconception, in 1953, the agency elected Mrs. Jackie Robinson, wife of the famous baseball player Jackie Robinson, to serve on the Board of Directors. She played a crucial role in recruiting African-American families and as the movement gained momentum, more illustrious Americans, including Ruth Harris (wife of political scientist and Noble Peace Prize winner Ralph Bunche), Marian Anderson (celebrated American singer), and Willetta S. Mickey (wife of Civil Rights pioneer Hubert Delaney) helped Spence-Chapin recruit African-American adoptive families.

Eleanor Roosevelt was the featured speaker for a Spence-Chapin conference in 1954. Mrs. Roosevelt was quoted in The New York Times as saying, “No matter what the color of their skin, all our children must be looked at as the future rich heritage of the country.”

In 1991, adoptive parents of African-American children formed the Spence-Chapin African-American Parents Advisory Committee, known as AAPAC. The group, which welcomes all families parenting African-American, Black, bi-racial, and multi-racial adopted children, brings families together for social networking and support. One of the positive outcomes has been the close ties formed by members and their children, and the sense of community which has evolved among families.

Today, Spence-Chapin continues our mission of finding adoptive families for all children in the New York tri-state area and abroad as well as recruiting African-American, Black, bi-racial, and multi-racial adoptive parents.  

 

Black History Month Celebrated with Javaka Steptoe

 

On a sunny afternoon in February 2011, dozens of Spence-Chapin families gathered to celebrate Black History Month with noted author/illustrator Javaka Steptoe.

The families, all part of the African-American Parents Advisory Committee (AAPAC), were abuzz with excitement as they waited for direction. Steptoe was there to guide the group through a collage-making activity. The goal would be to create a piece of art that would convey the richness of Spence-Chapin’s work and the cultural mosaic it has formed through its African-American adoption program. African -American adoptive family art project

Working with wood blocks, the families created images of themselves using photos, colored paper, markers and paint.  Once completed, Steptoe took each block and  “wove” them together to form a “quilt” depicting the many faces of AAPAC.

Steptoe delivered the final wood-based collage this winter. The AAPAC families chose to dedicate it to Spence-Chapin where it now hangs in the main conference room in honor of past Executive Director Kathy Legg.

 

Submitted by Traci Lester